UN Urged to Address Afghan "Rights Crisis"

April 20, 2005

The United Nations must increase human rights monitoring in Afghanistan, a country still facing a rights crisis with gunmen holding sway over large parts of the country, a U.S.-based rights group said on Wednesday. Close attention to rights was particularly important in the run-up to parliamentary elections in September that are likely to be fiercely fought, Human Rights Watch said. "There is still a human rights crisis in Afghanistan," said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director. "Warlords and armed factions still dominate many parts of the country and routinely abuse human rights, especially the rights of women and girls."

The group urged the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to send more rights monitors to Afghanistan and criticised donor countries, particularly NATO members, for being slow in meeting aid commitments. "As a result, Afghans countrywide continue to complain about extortion and robberies by militias and political repression by local strongmen," the group said in a statement.

Election monitors were unable to cover much of the country during a presidential election in October, largely because of security worries. Human Rights Watch said it had documented intimidation of civil society groups and journalists. The election was won by U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai, who has stressed the need to protect human rights and has tried to rein in faction leaders and disarm their fighters.

Human Rights Watch said September's parliamentary election would be at risk of abuses and called on the Afghan government to press for greater international support for rights monitoring. "Parliamentary elections, which are more competitive at a local level, are expected to be more fiercely contested and thus more vulnerable to political intimidation," it said.

The rights group also said the United States, which has about 17,000 troops in Afghanistan, should do more to support U.N. efforts on human rights.

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